Keith Stirling Summerhays
My first recollections of home were of our house at 1373 Browning Avenue, Salt Lake City, since that is where I was born in an upstairs bedroom that looked out toward the mountains.
Between our house and 14th East was a large vacant lot with a well traveled diagonal path (I later discovered there had been two vacant lots since eventually there were two houses there). I think I used this path on my way to kindergarten at Uinta School. Also in this general area was Meylan's (sp.) store that seemed to sell a lot of different things including candy.
A favorite spot for me was Saltair but a vivid memory of it was a day I spoiled for myself and the whole family, especially Mom. I had a new pair of Keds and was going to be smart and go down a slide standing up. But the Keds didn't slide and I went over the side and landed on my head on the cement. I don't remember the details but I think we all just packed up and took the next train back to Salt Lake.
Another favorite spot was Parleys Canyon. There was an old cabin at the end of the road that my Uncle Jim knew about and we would go up there to camp out and I got to go along quite often. My current map of the area shows Interstate 80 as the road through Parleys Canyon.
Before I was born the family had lived in Independence, Missouri in what Mom called the "Rock House" which she loved and talked about a lot. Her life there had been particularly happy. Much later we moved back to Independence and Dad made the big mistake of moving into a small house across the street and a few doors up from the Rock House. My impression is that Mom felt very bad about living that close to the Rock House that she had loved so much. We hadn't lived there very long when we moved to California. This was around 1929 and the job Dad had gone to Missouri to take had petered out. We loaded everything into our Ford touring car and headed for California. We went first to Pasadena where Mom's brother, Uncle Jim, lived. Uncle Jim was my favorite uncle probably because I got to know him so well during a time that he lived with us in Salt Lake.
After a short stay in Pasadena we moved to Los Angeles and lived a short distance from Exposition Park which had a big museum that gave Lloyd and me a lot of enjoyment since Mom took us there fairly often. There was the skeleton of a big mastodon which had been excavated from the La Brea tar pits (not a great distance from where we lived). I never got tired of looking at this huge skeleton, with its enormous tusks.
These were "depression" days and things were quite cheap. The local movie theater had an afternoon rate of 15 cents for adults. Kids with an adult were free, so Mom, Lloyd and I went to the movies every once in a while.
Mom was super cooperative in the "projects" Lloyd and I concocted. In fact, if I remember correctly, she came under criticism from other mothers in the neighborhood for her cooperation with us. She was setting a bad example for them. A typical one was the time Lloyd and I wanted to dig a tunnel in the back yard. Mom was concerned, quite rightly, that such an excavation would cave in on us but she did let us dig a trench which we covered with boards and dirt. Another project she went along with was for a "swimming pool" in the back yard which turned out to be a pretty good sized mud puddle which she let us get into and splash around. And after that the cleaning up of two pretty dirty little boys. And then there were the two tree houses; one each for two quite large apricot trees in the back yard. One tree could only accommodate a platform with some low sides around it. In the other tree, however, we were able to build a totally enclosed "house" with a little door and since it was close to the garage our big brother, Don, got an electric light into it (probably not strictly according to the electrical code). I could tell more of the "projects" Mom expedited for us but these are typical.
I was also sick a lot and missed most of kindergarten but while the other kids were in kindergarten, Mom taught me how to read so when we got to California they skipped me into second grade. She used a system of phonics with various "families" of sounds. I don't know where she got this method but it really worked.
During my grammar school days I didn't do very well and this was a big disappointment for Mom since the other three boys had always done very well in school. Looking back I can see she tried every way to inspire me to follow their example.
Even though Lloyd was only 2 1/2 years older than I, he was always concerned that I wasn't doing very well in school. He did everything he could think of to inspire me to do better, but I was a lazy lout and didn't do better. When I was going into high school Lloyd knew this was my last chance to make something of myself. So in desperation he bet me $10.00 I couldn't get into the Scholarship Society. Well, $10.00 was an enormous amount of money so I risked my life as a drone and took him up on the bet. So I had to study hard and get good grades or I'd be bankrupt in more ways than one. So I did study hard and I won the bet. But the thrill of bringing home an excellent report card was bigger than the money. (I used the money to buy a drafting set since that was the "shop" course I had wanted to take to fulfill the requirement for one shop course for the academic curriculum.) Never again did I do less than my best so I owe a great debt of gratitude to Lloyd for inspiration as well as monetary help in getting my education.
I think Mom would have given her eye teeth for a little girl but she would say the reason they had all boys was because they loved them. There certainly was never a doubt in our minds about Mom's love for us. And we loved her. I remember going on a camping trip with Uncle Jim when I was little, before I was in school. We were gone for about a week, I think, and I had a wonderful time but when we got home Mom was out in the yard and I was so happy to see her I ran to her, grabbed her around the knees and bawled my eyes out for joy. She always let us know that she loved us. When we would ask whom she loved the most, she used to say, "I love Dick the most because he's the oldest and Keith the most because he's the youngest and Don and Lloyd the most because they're in the middle." I'm absolutely certain that she loved each of us with all her heart.
We could always go to Mom for good advice and always got the best. When I met Milly (which was at work at the Telephone Company) I found she just lived about 3 blocks from us and one Saturday I wanted to go over to her place but wasn't sure how to get invited. So I asked Mom if I should call her to see if it would be OK to go over. Mom said, "Faint heart never won fair lady." So I called and was invited over. Bless Mom for that good advice.
All my recollections of Mom are wonderful. Some are sad but never the slightest unpleasant. As I grow older one of the things I look forward to is seeing her again in heaven.
1 June 1994
Last modified: November 13, 2000